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Dread

silk.jpg

Photo credit here.

I wrote this on May 25th of this year but it felt too vulnerable for to me to share at the time. Today seems like a good day to post it. I’m sitting in my office with the luxurious gift of time, courtesy of Jonas and his aftermath….

It’s a holiday weekend, and I should feel relaxed. Instead, anxiety is gnawing at me; and I want to eat everything in sight.

This has been going on since yesterday. I thought that if I took care of some things I had been putting off, I would feel relief. This is how I usually manage my anxiety, and this is what I have taught our children since–sorry, girls–they have inherited some of my bits.

There are many necessary tasks I do not enjoy. I am good at my job but I am a poor housekeeper. I can bake all night long but I can think of a million reasons to avoid working in the yard.

One of my most dreaded tasks is my core exercises. These exercises are the same routine I have been enduring since my nanny days, and I am bored to tears. I begrudge the 20 or so minutes I need to do them properly. Add the extra exercises and stretches I have incorporated to to help offset all the sitting I do since I began counseling full time, and you have dread with a capital D. I tend to forget that without this discipline, I start stooping like a crone, and people start asking when I’m due. Should I be happy or alarmed that, being as I’m into my 50’s, the pregnancy question has tended to give way to inquiries about beer consumption?

I blame my father, by the way. I seem to have gotten his undiluted posture genes. I also inherited a flat chest and somebody’s tiny hips, which meant that my abs ripped further during each pregnancy and left me looking pregnant forevermore. Thank goodness, I got a decent butt and a pretty nice pair of legs out of the deal.

Feeling so anxious has had me trying to deduce which Dreaded Task I need to tackle to get the monkey off my back. I cleaned the master bathroom, dealt with the laundry, tidied the kitchen, did my exercises, walked the dog, and made sure all my agency paperwork was up to date.

Nope. Still anxious.

I had an eating disorder in the 80’s. I learned in 1987, when I decided to start being honest with myself, that I would keep eating until I figured out what was eating me. I made a rule for myself: When I get the urge to Eat, I have to immediately stop what I am doing and sit quietly until I figure out what it is I don’t want to feel. THEN I can eat–whatever I want and as much as I desire. Except, at that point, I no longer want to.

Since those early days of truth, I’ve used this strategy here and there when I’ve found it difficult to hit the off switch. I’m happy to report I have gotten out of practice.

It finally dawned on me that I needed to draw on old experience. I sat down alone with myself until one part of me spoke to the other and cleared up the mystery.

It was ridiculously simple.

I don’t want to go shopping.

Yes, really.

I don’t want to go shopping.

I have a wedding to go to next month. A Southern wedding, in fact. I think that ups the ante, and I think the itch on the back of my neck is a hive.

Knowing how much I dislike trying to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear, I had given myself a deadline: One month before the event, I was to assess my wardrobe and shop for whatever clothing I would need. I knew to put this mandate in place because of wardrobe crises past. This weekend marked 4 weeks until the event.

I have not yet addressed the wardrobe problem, and I am prickling with anxiety.

My sister Gwen gets upset with me and tries to boost my self esteem. I get mad back and tell her I like myself just fine. This is mostly true. I feel like a million bucks sitting here in my flip flops and battered cargo shorts. I am sporting the oversized t-shirt our oldest daughter made me for Mother’s Day back in 1997. She finger painted a portrait of me and signed it with a handprint. I feel every inch the loved and desired woman. I am showered, shaven, and deodorized. My teeth are flossed and brushed. My clothes are clean. My body works fine. What else is required?

I have come to accept dressing for work. I stick to a uniform of bland pants and interchangeable tops and scarves so I can mix and match until kingdom come. This checks the box. I am not my clothes.

But a wedding? I feel faint. I am an outsider in the sisterhood of women. Some things I just don’t get: clothing, makeup, nail care, home decorating, and talking about home decorating. I feel like an alien.

The only way to get over this is to get through it.

I have made an appointment for advising and moral support with Claire, our 17-year-old daughter, for 6:30 tonight. She is going to accompany me on a shopping trip and talk me down when I go into fight or flight. I want to honor our niece at her wedding. I love her enough to speak the language of the normal. I’m going to play dress up. I am going to shut my mouth. I am going to like it.

I’m getting this out of my system now because once I commit, I am going to hold my head high and wear those threads like a princess at a ball.

Glass slippers in size 10, please.

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15 responses »

  1. Oh, I can so relate! I hate to shop, have no skill with girlie stuff. My anxiety and annoyance go through the roof. Blah! My husband bought me a shirt last year and when my daughter saw me wearing it, she nearly had a heart attack and fell off her chair. Good luck to you and enjoy the day with your daughter. You can do it!

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  2. I have missed your writing. Great stuff.

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  3. I sometimes have moments where I eat when I should be doing something else, like paying attention to what’s really bothering me. I like your trick to sitting down and figuring out what you don’t want to feel first. I will remember that! I’m glad you posted.

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    • I used to be a competitive runner with real promise. I probably would not have pursued it after college anyway but I did not like the way I left the sport and felt a lot of shame for years. I had initially tried to control my eating after I gained the dreaded freshman ten. That initial experience of food restriction seemed to trigger a full blown eating pattern in which I ate rather than felt and then had to keep running to offset my binges. My running experience was never as joyous after that but rather compulsory and tainted. I could probably run for exercise now – from a mental health viewpoint, I am good – but now other parts are wearing out.

      No regrets, though. The shame is long gone. It was a great ride while it lasted.

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  4. This is an incredible piece of writing because, not only is very well-written (“I am an outsider in the sisterhood of women”) , it is raw and truthful in a way that, I’m sure, many of us can relate to–and learn from. I am also one of those people who is not always in touch with her feelings, and I would do well to learn from your example to spend more time figuring out what makes me feel anxious, and address–or, as in your case, “a dress,” it. I’m going to wager a guess that you looked beautiful in whatever you ended up buying for the wedding.

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  5. You might achieve some sense of solace by recognizing that the upcoming nuptials aren’t yours, after all. Hopefully, the focus will be on your niece. That said, I realize that guys have a MUCH easier time with such stuff. I just grab the same thing I wore to the last wedding, and the one before that, and the one before that, and….

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  6. I felt the twinge of a hive form on the back of my neck as I read about the dress you’ve put off shopping for to wear at the wedding, Jane. Except for me it’s that I’ve put off shopping for the right dress to wear at a funeral. My mother’s, but she hasn’t died, and even though she’s 97 and has severe dementia, it may be a long time. But each time my sister-in-law says I should get started now so I won’t be embarrassed when I give one of the eulogies–and she’s hammered me with this for the past two years–I go a little nuts.

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    • Oh, Marylin, there will be time enough, lots of time, too much time after your mother is gone. I am in glad you are not so anxious as to have to rush her along. I doubt embarrassment and keeping up appearances will be the go-to emotions when the time comes. You continue to spend your energies honoring your mother while she lives, which is far more important. In her spirit, she must perceive this as well and benefit. I feel sad about the too-tidy life of your sister in law in this regard.

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  7. I think your technique of sitting down and working out what you don’t want to feel before you eat is a very good one that can be applied to all addictive behaviour. Although when I was using cocaine 22 hours a day I knew I was trying to get away from my mother’s illness but I didn’t fully understand why that made me want to kill myself. Also when I was doing OCD 10 hours a day I knew the reason but the feelings were so overwhelming I couldn’t stop doing it until I went on anti-anxiety medication. I am totally with you on the shopping. As a former shopping addict, I hate shopping as when I walk into a store I have absolutely no idea how much I’m going to spend, but it is often a hell of lot more than I intend. Expensive shops are the worst for me as everyone is so nice to you! I haven’t really been into a shop for years, I’m too frightened, and keep mending everything instead! http://bit.ly/1ER5cLY

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    • I have been reading your blog, and I enjoy it a lot. No pretensions to be found there! I am thankful that I am thinking and behaving in healthy ways these days. But also thankful for the reminders which crop up to tell me that I am still “that person” and not to lose touch with her, distance myself from her, or fail to appreciate all she has done (or tried to do) for me. I try to keep it real with God and others. I appreciate your openness–few would be as bold. I hope you will end up with a book. I know I would buy it.

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  8. Playing dress up? Good luck! If anyone were to invite me to anything requiring dressing up in formal attire I’d be just as anxious. I’d have to some serious shopping too. But try have fun and take lots of pictures. You’ll be just fine! Hugs

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